After dealing with the dismal topic of what Boston refers to as man’s natural state of corruption, he now takes to the supernatural. We all love a good mystery. Some are particularly fond of supernatural mystery. Then there are those who are deeply disturbed by and have no interest at all in the supernatural. I don’t refer here to being frightened by the subject, but rather the denial or lack of consideration of mystical beings. Within the Christian community there is often outrage at the promotion of certain works of supernatural fiction. For example, when the “Harry Potter” series came out, I had young children and was young in the faith myself. Christian publications, pastors, and fellow Christians spoke out about the evils of J.K Rowling’s portrayal of witchcraft and evil forces. We were told to prevent our children from reading the books because of the influence they may have upon their minds. Jumping on the band wagon, I fell into this camp.
Today I must admit, I am a bit of a fan of Harry Potter movies. My daughter and I have seen all of them. I never read the books, but that would take more time than I allow for entertainment. ( You know, TV and football come first.) However, I will not be an antagonist and condemn those who take a dim view of exposing themselves and their children to works such as “Lord of the Rings,” or even apparent Christian allegories like the works of C.S. Lewis. (This “Walking Dead” thing is out of my wheelhouse.) There is definitely scriptural warning about associating with witches and evil forces. I applaud those who try to protect their children from the searing of their consciences. However as modern, educated, and enlightened citizens of western civilization, our tendency is to deny the supernatural altogether. There is merit in some exploration and promotion of supernatural occurrences, because if you are a Christian, you are a supernatural being.
The term “born again Christian” is somewhat of a tautology. It’s kind of like saying “free gift”. If a gift is not free, by definition, it is not a gift. If a Christian is not born again, they are not a Christian. Boston deals with this mysterious supernatural rebirth under the title “State of Grace.”
While exhorting the early Church to love one another, he tells these brethren that they are “Being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23) Probably the most referenced discussion of rebirth in scripture is that of Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus advises him of the need for this spiritual transformation. The word picture that Nicodemus forms is one of physical birth.
The term Boston chooses for this state of grace is regeneration. He calls it a “begun recovery.” Regeneration is not a complete work, but is carried out by degrees. Now I can hear some of your minds churning, as you would contend that you were born again at some particular place and time, perhaps at an evangelical meeting. I will not argue that point. However, you probably would also contend that the abortion of a fetus before “birth” is murder. Well, when did the life begin? If you use this analogy, you can only come to the conclusion that the spiritual life that formed inside your soul may have been microscopic and undetectable but nevertheless, life just the same. Your adoption and justification by God is instantaneous but your realization and coming to terms with having been regenerated may be hard to pinpoint.
As scientists claim to know how conception occurs, they could not honestly believe that there is not a mystical unexplainable element to the process. Regeneration is unexplainable. We are made into something that we were not before, as a fetus is made of something without form.
Regeneration is passive. As the child has no control over its conception, we play no role in our new birth. I realize that this particular point can be a dividing factor among believers. I am willing to debate the topic but once again this is not the forum for that. However here’s some unsolicited advice. In order to explain to someone what you are, you should probably not say that you are a “born again” Christian. Like Nicodemus, the average person may get the wrong idea, seeing as how the baby does not play much of a role in its birthing process. Possibly you might tell someone you converted to Christianity. (Just saying)
Regeneration is permanent. Though you may go through seasons of growth and decline, you will never spiritually die. Reformed Theology uses the phrase “Perseverance of the Saints.” In simple terms, once you are regenerated, no act on your nor God’s part will take you out of the state of grace. Once you are saved, you are always saved. The corruptible and incorruptible seed analogy that Peter uses applies here. The incorruptible seed grows a plant that, though its branches be cut off and leaves fall in season, its roots never die. Like the sprouting of spring, the signs of life will appear and bear fruit.
Turning from profanity to civility with a show of religion and an education in doctrine is not regeneration, but rather the benefits of it. Remember that no man can know the condition of the soul of another, but we can make judgments based upon the evidence. However, before we are qualified to make those judgments we should judge our own condition. Next time, Boston will help us see how regeneration of the mind and soul are evidenced.